Trailer vs Film

“Gripping and breathtaking…Every scene, every frame, is executed with pure brilliance” says one of the reviews for Only God Forgives. Certainly, the UK trailer for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Ryan Gosling-led hellish crime thriller is exactly that. Seductively pumping with dark electro-pop beats by Sunns, the 1:26 sneak montage outdoes its duty as a mere preview of the film and becomes something entirely of its own.

Stylistically, the tone and pace of the trailer captures a mood that feels very contemporary. Sharp photographic character profile shots and moody neon-red Bangkok cityscapes are weaved together with crystal clear slow-mo action moments and Julian (Gosling) marching towards the camera carrying a determined sociopathic look on his face. A gritty post-modern anti-hero pop flair, something in between Refn’s Valhalla Rising and Drive, is alluded at. The trailer hits climax with Julian asking his arch-nemesis if he wants to fight. Traditionally, action movie one-liners are cringe-inducing cheesefests, but here Julian’s composed ‘Wanna fight?’ is satisfying and effectively timed because of the charisma and momentum built up by the trailer. Simply, it knows what it wants to be – a very cool hyper stylised music/fashion clip – and executes it flawlessly. The film, on the other hand, is entirely different, and has garnered wildly mixed reviews.

The teaser trailer for Man of Steel is another recent example, hinting towards a dark low-budget drama, a character study with a documentary feel. Instead, the film delivers an action packed extravaganza of mega-Hollywood proportions.

This discontinuity (between trailer and film) is becoming more and more common and may be due to the rise in quality of short internet films, music videos and clips. Across Youtube and Vimeo thousands of beautifully directed short films are posted every day. Fashion labels and brands have started promoting their new collections and products using short internet-based films, with the intention of going viral.

The introduction of affordable DSLR cameras that capture near-cinema quality HD footage and the viral potential of short clips have influenced the production of film trailers towards becoming more than just previews of the main feature. Compare the previous trailers with the one for Casablanca, for example. The result is that trailers have come to stand as short pieces in themselves, which makes for the introduction of a new exciting art form that may, in some cases, be quite misleading.

Peter Eramian